By Anissa Joonas ‘13 Staff Writer
On April 4, 2011, the U.S. Department of Education and its Office for Civil Rights issued the Dear Colleague Letter: Sexual Violence. The letter is a call to action and presents guidelines for addressing sexual violence in schools and colleges. The statistics on sexual violence are deeply troubling. A report prepared for the National Institute of Justice found that 1 in 5 women are victims of completed or attempted sexual assault while in college. Approximately 6.1 percent of males are victims.
The Dear Colleague Letter is “a chance to wipe clean and look at our policies,” said Daren Mooko, Associate Dean of Students for Student Development and Leadership at Pomona College, at a live panel held at the Motley Coffeehouse on Friday afternoon (March 1, 2013).
The Deans of Students of the five colleges, Maggie Browning (Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Harvey Mudd College), Moya Carter (Dean of Students and Director of Campus Life at Pitzer College), Rebecca Lee (Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Scripps College), Daren Mooko (Associate Dean of Students for Student Development and Leadership at Pomona College), and Mary Spellman (Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students at Claremont McKenna College) openly discussed their proactive efforts to reimagine sexual assault policies.
The challenge for the 5Cs is to retain each school’s individuality while collaborating with the rest of the consortium. Sexual violence occurs across boundaries and requires a collaborative effort. The schools’ administrators are focusing on implementing a set of shared definitions as well as joint investigations. When rewriting the policies, the emphasis is on clear, plain language instead of legalistic, weighted terms.
“One of the questions that many students raise is, ‘Am I going to be treated fairly at another campus?’” said Mooko. The deans tell us that yes, the system is fair.
CMC is focusing on how to make sex ‘okay.’ Spellman wants the emphasis to be on the positive aspects of sex.
“Consent is active.” “Silence is not consent,” the deans of the 5Cs tell us.
One of the questions asked was, “Do the policies address issues of identity?” According to each school, gender and sexual identity play no role in how we define violence.
At Pomona, the administration is focusing on men’s groups—fraternities, sports teams, and other organizations—to redefine masculinity and raise awareness of sexual violence.
The five colleges are working hard on implementing policies and a system that is fair to all parties involved. The need for a higher degree of sexual respect is a chance for the schools to reexamine campus culture and not just the policy. For Mooko, “[the policy] is to be in compliance with the values of our institution.”